What is quality?
Before we can discuss quality in projects, it is important to understand this often-misinterpreted term. ISO 9000 states that quality is “the degree to which a group of inherent characteristics meets requirements.” In other words, to know if we are delivering quality, we need to analyze whether the requirements are being satisfied. We also have to decouple the idea of quality from the idea of complexity. A simple project or product may have more quality than another that has dozens of technical attributes. The question is whether each one satisfactorily meets the established requirements. For example, if an economy car does not accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 3 seconds, it does not necessarily mean that it lacks quality. However, if a high-performance sports car does not meet this mark, it can imply a level of quality below expectations.
Prevention is always preferable to inspection and, ultimately, correction. For this reason, it is important to plan the quality of deliveries and processes. The result of this is you reduce the chances of encountering problems during inspection. Moreover, the cost of avoiding errors is usually less than the cost of correcting problems. In other words, detecting defects in inspections is undesirable. Unfortunately, it can be even worse- when non-compliance is discovered during use.
Managing quality in projects in 3 steps
This process aims to ensure the quality of deliveries and meet the needs of the client and other stakeholders in the project. To achieve this goal, processes should work to satisfy the established requirements for the product or service. At the same time, you cannot ignore other aspects related to the project. For a project to be successful, simply satisfying standards and specifications is not enough. Other aspects, such as good communication with stakeholders and meeting deadlines, are also very important.
It is also important to remember the importance of preventing errors and defects. As mentioned above, prevention leads to lower costs and improved predictability. There is another equally important aspect related to quality in projects: continuous improvement of products and processes.
The PMBOK guide, published by the Project Management Institute (PMI), establishes a series of processes to better manage quality in projects.
1 – Plan quality management in projects
This step involves recording the quality requirements and standards that the project and deliverables have to satisfy. You should also document how you will demonstrate that a certain level of quality has been attained. You should document that the requirement is in compliance and which people and/or functions will perform this verification. This process ensures guidance and direction on how quality will be managed and verified. You should establish how quality requirements will be addressed in the project and in product requirement documentation. The means to measure quality should be adjusted according to the specifics of the project or product.
Having clear criteria will make it easier to carry out objective inspections and audits. In this step, you should prepare your Quality Management Plan, which is an integral part of the Project Management Plan. According to PMBOK guidelines, it can include the following:
- Quality standards that will be used in the project;
- Project quality goals;
- Quality roles and responsibilities;
- Project deliverables and processes subject to quality reviews;
- Quality control and quality management activities planned for the project;
- Quality tools that will be used in the project;
- Important project procedures, like how to deal with non-conformities and procedures for corrective actions and continuous improvement.
2 – Manage quality
Managing quality in projects means ensuring that the processes involved in the project are carried out effectively. It is related to satisfying the standards and objectives defined in the Plan. This ensures that deliverables meet stakeholder needs and requirements. Thus, managing quality includes aspects of product design and improving processes.
This step helps to ensure better products and increase confidence that future deliveries will meet requirements and expectations. Thus, the application of quality assurance tools, such as audits and failure analysis, provides a number of advantages. First, it allows you to assess whether the processes in the project are being carried out effectively. Second, it allows you to verify whether deliveries are achieving the desired level of quality.
Managing quality should be the responsibility of everyone involved, including sponsors and even the customer. The successful execution of this step favors the improvement of processes, leading to better results and greater satisfaction of everyone involved.
This process results in quality reports that record the results of tests and audits.
3 – Control quality
Controlling quality in projects consists of monitoring and recording quality management activities. This allows you to verify whether established standards are being met. Quality levels are verified during the execution of this process. In this way, you can determine whether or not these levels are acceptable. If problems are detected, corrective actions should to be taken as quickly as possible, including the possibility of submitting requests for changes in the project. These should follow the procedural flow, going through approvals and decisions about the actions to be taken.
The goal of the Quality Control step is to verify the consistency, complianceand suitability of the product or service. This means that you should document information about the performance of activities. Very importantly, this step will assist in the customer delivery acceptance process.
Controlling quality is a process that should be carried out throughout the project. Leaving it to the end, when you examine the final product, may be too late. Similarly, the recording of evidence and controls should occur throughout the project life cycle. The result is that you can demonstrate how you achieved quality. In other words, it is the result of satisfying specifications and standards, and not mere chance.
We should note that the levels of standards and effort to control quality may vary. That is to say, requirements are different, depending on the type of product, service or sector. As you can imagine, projects and products in the pharmaceutical sector, or for a nuclear reactor, require higher levels of quality control.
Quality as a source of corporate development
In conclusion, improving quality in projects results in lower development costs and higher quality deliveries. As a result, you attract more customers and develop more products and services. Managing quality in projects is important for the growth and maintenance of organizations.
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